If you’ve been to any of my weight management Lunch ‘n Learns, you’ll know that this is a trick question. Unfortunately, no magic bullet exists for fast and easy weight loss – there are no reliable studies that prove that pills, creams, and other “miracle cures” work, and most studies that are out there show that all of these fast fixes come with a handful of unpleasant, and often unsafe, side effects.
Many people experience short-term rapid weight loss the first few weeks after beginning new eating and exercise routines. This is due to the loss of water weight, which comes off quickly. There is only so much water weight to lose, and it takes a little bit more time to lose weight that’s due to excess fat, which is the weight that really matters if you want to improve your health. If you are in the process of losing weight, you can reasonably (and safely) expect to lose 1-2 pounds a week after that initial weight loss.
Even though 1-2 pounds a week may not seem like much, sustaining that type of weight loss is a big accomplishment, albeit one that takes a little work. The simplest way to keep losing weight is to make sure you are burning more calories (through exercise and daily activity) than you are consuming (through food and drink). Maintaining a calorie deficit of 500 each day (meaning you burn 500 more calories than you eat/drink) should result in one pound lost each week; a 1,000-calorie deficit should result in a weekly weight loss of two pounds.
Keeping track of how many calories you consume and burn each day isn’t quite as simple, but this becomes easy with practice, readily available tools, and an understanding of how your body works. The easiest way to track caloric intake is by keeping a food journal. This involves reading food labels to determine how many calories are in the foods you eat and the beverages you drink and keeping a log of every bit of food or beverage that enters your mouth. Some people enjoy using a paper food journal, while others prefer keeping track on their computer or smartphone with the help of an app like MyFitnessPal or CalorieCount. It doesn’t matter what method you choose – as long as you are aware of how many calories you’re truly consuming each day, you can begin to plan an activity routine that helps you burn a greater number of calories.
You may have used a calories-burned calculator on the WellMASS portal or other wellness website, and been discouraged by the fact that exercises like walking or yoga only burn about 300 calories an hour. The good news is that you don’t have to walk for 6 hours to burn more calories than you consume, as your body is doing some of the hard work for you without you even realizing it. That’s right – your body burns calories all day long, even when you’re sleeping. It needs calories to perform essential functions like breathing and digesting food. While the only surefire way to determine exactly how many calories you truly burn is to get tested in a laboratory, you can get a rough idea of how many calories you burn each day (factoring in light-to-moderate physical activity) by multiplying your weight by 15. You can then plan your caloric intake accordingly – subtract 500 from this number to lose a pound a week; subtract 1,000 to lose two pounds.
I could talk about weight loss all day, but I will save more of my tips for another time. I will leave you, though, with an insider secret on the one thing that actually has been shown to help achieve faster weight loss: yogurt. Enjoy!